Why I Work With Refugees

I recently had the privilege of sharing with a group about why I volunteer with World Relief’s refugee resettlement program. Here’s (approximately) what I said:

In two years of volunteering with World Relief I’ve built a long list of stories I could tell.

Stories about the joys and successes, about being used by God; but also about the challenges, heartaches, and frustration that come with investing in people who have given up everything to come to a place where they know practically no one, have almost nothing, and even if they speak the language, they don’t understand this strange culture they’re in.

There’s the 24 year old Iranian who was sitting on my couch one Christmas morning after being in the US for less than two months. The Orange County Register wanted to do a story on a refugee’s first Christmas, so our family was hosting not only our first refugee, but our first newspaper reporter and photographer as well. The reporter asked about his favorite memory since coming to the US. His answer: helping me put up the Christmas lights on the front of our house. Want to know how to help a refugee?  Let them help you. Being useful increases dignity.

I get choked up as I remember the 52 year old Sudanese man who broke down crying as he climbed out from behind the wheel of my car and stared at the paper in his hand. It said that he’d just passed his driver’s license test. The first driver’s license in his life. So how do you help a refugee? You help them accomplish their dreams and ambitions.

If I had time, I would take you to Isaiah 58 and describe what led me to get involved to begin with. But instead, let me leave you with just one verse, 1 John 3:17:  “If any man has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart to him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

If any man — that’s me;
has the world’s goods — that’s me;
sees his brother in need — that’s me;
yet closes his heart to him — Hmmm…seems like I have a choice here.

But actually, this verse isn’t about a choice, it’s rhetorically describing the evidence of what is or isn’t in me.

My helping refugees isn’t about “what’s in it for me”, it’s about “what’s in me for them”.  I have a Savior who made the greatest sacrifice in human history because He loves me. And there are over 7 billion other people in the world today that He loves just as much.

With His love in me, I have to ask myself what is in my life that I’m not willing to sacrifice — to put at risk — to demonstrate Christ’s love to those in need.  I don’t have a choice about whether to do it; I can only choose how to do it. Want to help a refugee?  Be the love of Jesus to them. 

That’s why I volunteer with World Relief.


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